Becoming a Registered Nurse in the UK
Nursing is currently among the most employable course globally as most graduates of nursing are likely to get a job within six months of concluding their degree programme. Currently, with the global health crises caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been an increase in demand for healthcare personnel, especially trained nurses.
In the UK, the shortage in the nursing workforce has led to increasing demand for trained nurses and as such, has attracted more foreign-trained Nurses to the nursing profession.
The UK has one of the most progressive healthcare systems in the world. And Nurses in the UK can work for the NHS or a private healthcare provider and they join that class of reputable workforce that provides quality care.
It goes without saying that the journey to becoming a registered nurse can be an arduous one. But then, with determination and sheer grit that nursing dream can be achieved.
In this edition of Career Life, Esther Onwuka, a UK registered Nurse, shares the story of her Nursing journey with us from a Nursing school in India, then returning to Nigeria to get certified as a Nurse and then working briefly before immigrating to the UK. She also explains exactly what steps you need to take if you want to train and qualify as a Registered Nurse in the UK.
How did you begin your nursing journey?
Saying “nursing journey” today feels good, because I never imagined I would be a nurse. I was certain I was going to be a lawyer until I couldn’t fit in the art class, thanks to government lessons – they were sufficiently boring with too many things to store in my head. I mean, no space.
Then, I changed my dreams “let me become a doctor since I can’t be a lawyer.” So, in 2008, at 15 years, I applied to study medicine at a state university in Nigeria. To my shock, I was offered microbiology. Like how?
Everybody asked me to accept it because “This is Nigeria” and you don’t always get the course you apply for. I did accept the offer but was it for me? No. Three years into studying for a Microbiology degree, I was itching, I was going to graduate the next year but it didn’t feel like it. I was not happy.
God bless my dad, he asked me if I would like to study Nursing in India because his friend had told him of an affordable opportunity. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue Nursing as a career, the one thing I was sure about was becoming a doctor. Well, half bread they say is better than none. And so, I left Nigeria for India in 2012 and my nursing journey began.
How was life as a Nigerian student in India?
My first day was not pleasant, the country had this peculiar “fragrance.” I did not know if I could eat what I was served, as it did not look edible. My favourite food, yam, was MIA, no red oil and there was no Maggi/knorr readily available – I had to travel to New Delhi to get one.
I do not care about Eba and the likes so at least, I didn’t miss those meals. I took time to prepare my meals until I was able to eat from restaurants (Chinese mostly).
With time, I adapted; well, you do when you have 4 years to spend. I had many eyes on me, those wanting to touch my hair and others wondering why I left my country to come study in theirs.
In class, I struggled with the Indian accent. For the first few months, I couldn’t make out much from what my lecturers were saying. Regardless, I studied hard with my textbooks and the class notes. Socially, there was no social life for me, it was home, class, and church. Rinse and repeat.
How was the Nigerian community in India and your school?
I came with a few Nigerians on the same flight, I also met some in my class – 7 of us out of the 50 students in class.
We rented flats together as we could not bear to stay in the hostels (again, the food). Having Nigerian classmates and flatmates made staying in India a beautiful experience, it was like home. We cooked together, ate together and did virtually everything together. We were a family, we still are.
Did you experience cases of culture shock and discrimination in India?
Yes certainly. I was surprised to see people eating with their hands (I don’t mean Eba), I mean rice and every other food. This was normal practice for every Tom, Dick and Harry. Also, the best place to sit for Indians is on the floor. I mean there may be empty seats but it’s just more comfortable for them to sit on the floor.
Their way of dressing too was a bit monotonous, it’s either a saree or a churidar, every single day, different colours and patterns. Sometimes I imagine their wardrobes. Concerning discrimination, I would say I did not experience much of that. Indians are beautiful people, polite to a fault, kind and overly respectful. The one time I felt being discriminated against was when I sat next to someone on a train, she stood up and moved to a different seat. Now, I wouldn’t blame this on the country as a whole because I have had times when people stood up for me to sit just because they think a foreigner should be comfortable. I believe that lady just had her manners, and she is forgiven.
How was your experience returning to Nigeria and how’s your experience as a foreign-trained Nurse in Nigeria?
I wish I didn’t have to come back to Nigeria because somehow, we know how to complicate life. It was 4 years of peace of mind in India. In my bid to be registered as a nurse in Nigeria, I was subjected to a 1-year adaptation course for foreign-trained nurses. I was sent to the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Lafia, Nasarawa state. It was quite depressing to go through another year of school.
In most countries, you just have to write a nursing qualifying exam to get licensed as a Nurse. Notwithstanding, I completed this, got my Nigerian license, completed the NYSC scheme, and got a job in Lagos.
How long did you work in Nigeria before immigrating to the UK as a Nurse?
I worked for 2 years and during this period, it was only my body that was there, my spirit was already in the UK.
I began my UK migration process in January 2020, came to the UK in December. It took nearly a year due to the pandemic.
How is it like for a foreign-trained nurse to get a job in the UK?
Any nurse can get a job in the UK as the demand is quite high. You just have to follow the necessary steps.
How accessible are nursing jobs for foreign-trained nurses who haven’t gotten their UK Nursing license?
Yes! You get licensed after writing the part 2 Test of Competence which can only be taken in the UK. However, you are recruited when you must have passed your English test (IELTS or OET) and part 1 Test of Competence (a computer-based test that can be done in your home country).
How is the work culture in the UK? Will you describe it as tedious?
Yes, tedious and rewarding. You work for every penny and get paid for every minute. You are also treated with respect. We have longer working hours, but all these can be managed depending on your employer.
What are the steps to take to become a UK registered nurse?
• Get an international passport.
• Preferably, write and pass IELTS/OET before starting the process as it is presumed to be the most challenging of all.
IELTS (about N75,000): Minimum of Listening – 7.0, Writing – 6.5, Reading – 7.0, Speaking – 7.0 and Overall – 7.0.
Occupation English Test (OET) about N140,000 currently: Minimum of Reading – B, Writing – C+, Listening – B, Speaking- B.
• Open an account with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, UK (NMC UK) via online.nmc-uk.org.
• Pay £140 (you can pay directly yourself with a Mastercard) after filling in the required information. At this stage, you need to upload the data page of your international passport, certificate (notification of result can be used here if your certificate isn’t available yet). You’ll have a personalized NMC portal through which you can monitor your progress all through the whole registration process.
• Pay NGN 17,500 via remitta (pay online if you are outside Abuja and someone is to submit for you but if in Abuja, you can pay online or in a bank). Alongside evidence of payment, send the photocopies of the following documents to the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN) office (preferably Abuja office).
-License (front and back)
-Handwritten Letter addressed to the registrar, NMCN requesting to verify you as a nurse and to show that you have a good standing with them (you must include your CRM number here, this CRM number can be found at the top left corner of the mail NMC UK sends after you must have paid £140).
• You might have to wait for weeks to be verified by NMCN.
• Upon your verification, you will receive an Authorization To Test (ATT) email from Pearson (the organization that handles the CBT – Test of Competence, part 1). You can now go ahead to book your CBT (£83).
• Booking your CBT- you can buy a voucher for this on https://www.mindhub.co.uk/. You will get a voucher code within 24-48 hours which you can input when you get to the payment stage of your CBT booking on the Pearson Vue site.
• Fill the final form by NMC UK which includes an upload of the name of a medical practitioner for health declaration, police clearance, notification/certificate, and IELTS (academics)/OET result (without this, you can’t progress beyond this stage, and you must have the expected bands) amongst others.
• Pay the final registration fee of £153 to NMC UK. This is like the pin (license) fees. After this is paid, a mail is sent to NMCN for your good standing report.
• Wait to have good standing done by NMCN (You don’t need to pay again for this as the initial NGN 17,500 covers it).
• You can start looking for a job at any stage but preferably, start after you must have passed CBT and IELTS/OET. You can either get an agent or apply directly on NHS.jobs, tracjobs and indeed.co.uk for jobs in National Health Service (NHS) hospitals but for care homes, apply on http://www.carehome.co.uk.
The benefits for care home vs NHS vary, choosing one depends on what you want and try researching on both before making a choice. Generally, care homes are believed to pay more but NHS hospitals are better for career advancement. Alternatively, you can send emails to some trusts to show interest in working for them as a Nurse.
• After getting an offer you are comfortable with (the “comfortable with” is very important), sign the offer letter and send your documents to the trust.
Do not sign more than one offer though you can have more than one (max should be 3 please, don’t go beyond that as we are trying not to cause problems for others). Note that when you apply directly, you might have to fund your visa and ticket yourself while you get a refund on getting to the UK (this isn’t always the case though).
Agents on the other hand pay for this upfront. Just ensure you read your offer letter well to know what the trust is offering.
• Wait for a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) by the trust (this replaces bank statements other direct visa applicants have to submit). It shows you have a sponsor that will support your stay in the UK. This COS also contains an employment start date. Ensure you don’t have more than one trust processing this for you as it is quite expensive which makes it unfair for the trusts and it can cause problems for you with the home office.
• Discuss with the trust and book your visa and subsequently, your ticket. You need a valid tuberculosis test (about NGN59,000 with 6 months validity) and police clearance (ranging from NGN2,000 – NGN10,000 depending on location, the cheapest price can be gotten at Alagbon police station in Lagos, it has 3 months validity).
• You will get to the UK as a pre-registration nurse and will be placed on salary band 3-4 (depending on trust). On passing your OSCE, you’ll automatically become a band 5 nurse.
• The final stage is writing your OSCE (This can only be done in the UK). You will get your pin (license) to practice after passing this. Most trusts train nurses for this exam, ensure you check your offer letter well and clarify this.